Jamie Hannah’s new video

Jamie Hannah is a friend of GodDaughter2, as a result of him having spent a year at the Royal College of Music, going from being a good countertenor to a rather better countertenor. But now he’s giving the pop star thing a go. Judging by his latest video, I reckon the plan just might work.

I’ve heard Jamie Hannah in action twice before, once live and once in the form of a recording. In terms of performing savvy and persistence and general attitude; he seemed to be going about it the right way, but the actual sounds he was making didn’t sound to me that distinctive. Any friend of GodDaughter2 is a friend of mine. But not having anything sufficiently positive to say about Jamie’s work, I kept quiet about it here.

As you can see, that has now changed: If this new video is anything to go by, Jamie is now making much more use his strength; which is his very distinctive countertenor voice.

And, although I know nothing of the technicalities of such things; the production side – the sheer sound of the musical backing and the general ambience – sounds to me like it has taken a big step in the right direction. Whatever he is now doing, I hope Jamie Hannah keeps at it.

Judging by a lot of the comments at YouTube, it would appear that a certain Boy George feels similarly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

When Elvis met Tommy in Bermondsey

This afternoon I was in Bermondsey, seeing a man about a blog, and without doubt, the oddest photo I took in my Bermondsey wanderings today was this one, of a garage door:

Here is a closer up view of the writing at the bottom:

Click to get that a lot more legible.

Do you care about this? It made me smile, but I really do not care if it is true. If you do, and haven’t already acquainted yourself with this tale and made up your mind about it, then read this, which merely reports on the claim (made in 2008 by a mate of Tommy Steele’s), or this, which is more scornful, or this, which is very scornful indeed. Elvis did fleetingly visit Scotland, apparently, but was stuck at the airport. The most scornful of these reports is Scottish, assuming that I am correct in believing “Shields” to be in Scotland. Can’t have the damn Sassenachs steeling their thunder. Ho, ho.

Rather surprisingly, I only found one other photo featuring what I photoed today, here. But that could just reflect my inadequacy as an internet searcher.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The performing horses of Warwick Castle: Nice legs – shame about the faces

Over the summer, a friend of mine was performing in a show at Warwick Castle about the Wars of the Roses. And early last August a gang of her friends and family went there to see this, me among them. It was a great show, albeit wall-to-wall Tudor propaganda, and a great day out.

Warwick Castle is quite a place, being one of Britain’s busiest visitor attractions. It’s No 9 on this list.

I of course took a ton of photos, and in particular I photoed the horses in this show, the crucial supporting actors, you might say. The stage was out of doors, of course, and long and thin, the audience on each side being invited to support each side in the wars. Long and thin meant that the horses had room to do lots of galloping.

None of the photos I took were ideal, but quite a few were okay, if okay means you get an idea of what this show was like:

The basic problem, I now realise, is that the horse heads were at the same level as the audience on the opposite side to my side. As Bruce the Real Photographer is fond of saying, when photoing people, you start by getting the background right. And I guess he’d say the same of horses. Well, this time, for these horses, I’m afraid I didn’t.

So it was a case of nice legs, shame about the faces. (That link is to a pop song from my youth, the chorus of which glued itself to my brain for ever. I particularly like the bit where they sing: “Shame about the boat race”.)

I recommend the show’s own Real Photographer, for better photos, potted biogs of the leading historic characters, and a little bit about the enterprise that did this show.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

An ideal Showboat

Recently I bought a CD set of Showboat, and yesterday I listened to it. Showboat is not really my kind of thing. When it comes to singing, I tend to prefer either Schubert or the Rolling Stones. I bought this Showboat to learn more about a lady called Janis Kelly. As you can see to the right there, she is one of the star singers in this recording.

Janis Kelly is something of a legend in the classical singing world. She is a fine singer in operas and music dramas of all kinds, and she sang the part of “Magnolia” in this performance of Showboat. She is also a much admired singing teacher, of the sort that singers she has taught spend the rest of their careers boasting that they were taught by, in their CVs and programme notes. And, Janis Kelly just happens to be GodDaughter2’s singing teacher at the Royal College of Music. (GD2’s graduation recital being further evidence, to my ears, and eyes, of Ms. Kelly’s teaching prowess.)

Janis Kelly sounded great on this recording, but what surprised me was how much I enjoyed the recording as a whole. I am used to hearing shows like Showboat performed in a style that is aimed at audiences who basically prefer pop music to classical or orchestral music, and which typically uses pop brashness and pop exuberance to cover for the small number of musicians being deployed. This version of Showboat, however, was “orchestrated”, by Robert Russell Bennett. The sleeve notes claim that this orchestration is based on the “original 1946 score”, and (I’m guessing) might well be closer to what its composer, Jerome Kern, would have wanted than was any performance that Kern himself ever heard. This is a performance which makes clear the direct line from opera to operetta, to the music of Kern. Under the baton of John Owen Edwards, the orchestra makes a far lovelier sound than the din I was expecting.

Mercifully, what has not been opera-ed, so to speak, is the singing style. Where an operatically-inclined manner is appropriate, that is what happens, as when Janis Kelly sings, for example. But when it comes to a character like Ellie, sung by Caroline O’Connor, we get the full Broadway closely-microphoned belting style, a style that someone like Franz Lehar, or for that matter Franz Schubert, could never have imagined.

Further proof of the excellence of the singing in this performance is that, in the best Broadway style, and even when the singing is rather operatic, you can hear every word they sing. Had this show been sung in the full-on operatic style throughout, to emphasise that this is directly descended from Verdi and Wagner and Puccini, that would never have happened. (I’m still grumbling to myself about a performance of Madam Butterfly at the English National Opera (where everything is sung in English), where most of the solo singers might as well have been singing in Japanese for all the sense I could make of what they were singing.)

My feeling about opera is that I tend not to like how it is sung (too wobbly and verbally incomprehensible (see above)), but I love the sound that it makes, in between the singing. When it comes to singing, I tend to prefer the Abba style to the noise made by the average opera singer. (Above average opera singers are a different matter entirely. (Today I listened to Act 1 of this, also on CD, and it sounded stupendous.)) But as for what accompanies that singing, give me the sound of an opera orchestra every time, over the brash, jazz-band-based instrumental belting, banging and twanging that you mostly get when listening to “music theatre”, provided only that the music is the kind that works orchestrally, which in Showboat it is.

This Showboat, then, is for me the ideal compromise, between Broadway and the opera house, being the best of both and the worst of neither. Not bad for a fiver, which is all Amazon charged me for it.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Two good jokes – and a mystery (and a sign (and a cartoon dance))

Two things got my attention just now on Twitter, both, I think, very funny. I didn’t actually LOL. But I did smile.

First up, this quote:

It is always bittersweet when your relatives bid you fond farewell as you leave for Edinburgh, and only you know how much you are about to defame them for comedic gain.

And next up, this cartoon:

The latter of these two jollities goes way back, and I suspect that the script and the visuals were done by different people. But the first one is bang up to date, and I am hence able to direct you to who originated it, which I like to do.

This, on the other hand, baffles me:

I recognise financial commentator and funny man Dominic Frisby, on the left there. But why do Frisby’s shoes have lightbulbs in them? Who is that other bloke, and why are the two of them waving their fingers like that? Why are they sitting in the eyes of a giant skull? Also, what on earth does this have to do with Brexit? What is it that Remainers have said about such a scene as this, to the effect that it couldn’t happen, or would happen less? Are the above two gents, like the provider of the quote above, in Edinburgh, for the Festival? And have the Remainers said that the Edinburgh Festival this year would be a flop? Yes, that must be it.

LATER: Just noticed where it says spikedmath.com in the cartoon. So I guess that’s where that started.

EVEN LATER: This:

Also:this.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Small Lego buildings and small 3D printed buildings

One of the photos illustrating this report:

Can we please have a Lego London?

I just typed “lego london” into google, not expecting anything helpful. A Lego cow in London. Lego shops in London. General Legonic activity of all kinds, in London. I did not expect to be told, right at the top of the list, about making London in miniature, out of Lego. But, I was immediately shown this:

Cancel my request for Lego London. It already exists, and it is very bad. Indeed, I would say that using Lego to mimic a very particular looking thing on a tiny scale is the very essence of what Lego is bad at doing, and the fact that Lego seems to spend so much of its time and trouble and focus and resources doing this exact thing spells its long-term doom. The whole point of Lego, surely, is that you can make everything – everything, that is to say, that you can make out of it – with a few generic shaped objects. Just like the Meccano of my youth, in other words, but architectural rather than mechanical. A big Tower Bridge, yes, good idea. A big Big Ben, not bad. But tiny versions of these, stupid and totally unrealistic? See above. Stupid.

For that, what you need is a 3D printer. And the smaller you make your small buildings, the more of them you can have in one spread.

A subset of them could be made to be exactly the right size for making buildings to attach to miniature railway layouts. So, do railway modellers use 3D printers, to make, not trains, but train layout appendages? It would make sense.

I just image googled railway modelling 3d printer, and got mostly 3D printed trains and train bits, rather than architecture.

Could making such models be the domestically owned 3D printer killer app? Because so far, a domestically owned 3D printer killer app has been conspicuous by its total absence, and any company which has tried to make its fortune making domestically owned 3D printers has gone bust. Such modelling – trains and houses and mountains and stuff – was all the rage when I was a kid, but all that has since been replaced by computer games. But might not those computer games in their turn come to seem rather dated? As is not the making of things now returning to the rich countries again, now that the computer guys are applying their wizardry to stuff-making? Conceivably, toys may some time soon become three dimensional and material again, with swarms of robot cars and lorries replacing the trains.

Probably not, because things seldom just come back into style like that, any more than dance bands ever did or ever will. More likely, the kid’s games of the future will involve some variation on virtual reality, which is to say they’ll be computer games only more so. If so, we might see a further reduction in the crime rate (see below).

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A face and some windows

My friends Perry and Adriana now live a short walk away from South Kensington tube. I can now get to them in about half an hour, compared to over an hour when they lived way along and just off Kings Road, and a solid bus ride away from any tube station.

And just as good, every time I now visit them to collect the Amazon purchases that they receive for me, as I did today, I get to see one of my favourite statues in London, the one of Bela Bartok. When I walk past that, I know I’m going the right way.

Trouble is, when I go past Bartok, the sunlight usually arrives on his back, and I get a photo like this:

Nice windows. Shame about the face.

So, inspired by the example of 6k (see below), I cranked up my photoshopclone and redid the photo so that I could see what the face consisted of:

Nice face. Shame about the windows.

You could probably combine the two, and make it: nice face, nice windows. You. Not me. That kind of thing just does not interest me enough to want to know how to do it. I wanted to see the face and I did. Mission accomplished.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

I like Prince Albert’s backing

Many decades ago, there was a TV show called Juke Box Jury. I liked it best when someone said: “I like the backin’.” Subsequently, upon maturer reflection, I felt that I was quite right to zero in on that dictum, and I still do. So often, with pop music, it is the musical backing, rather than the mere singing, which turns pop inadequacy into something distinctive and entertaining.

Something similar can be said for photography. When a Real Photographer (LINK TO THE OLD BLOG) friend of mine was once upon a time telling me about how to do photoing, he too said: get the background right.

All of which is the preamble to this photo, which I took this afternoon, and the backin’ of which I like a lot:

That is a statue (so far so obvious) of (not so obvious) Prince Albert. When you image google for “Prince Albert statue London”, you get a lot of photos of him in golden splendour, seated inside his Memorial in Hyde Park, but not so many photos of this one. Judging by the other photos I did find of it, here, here (he calls it “the politest statue in London”) and here, this statue has recently been cleaned.

I am surprised at how much I have come to like statues, and public sculpture in general. Three of the photos in this posting of mine, which I linked to from here yesterday evening, are of public sculptures, two of them statues, of Beau Brummell and of Anna Pavlova. I didn’t plan this. It just turned out that way.

Happy New Year, by the way. I’ve had a good 2018, so far.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

David Bowie dead – 2005 Ashes winners alive

Wandering along the Strand towards Embankment Tube, after Turandot had finished, I spied this sign on the inside of a shop window:

I had not realised that there are now David Bowie stamps. Apparently so. Ten in all. The ones above, and six more featuring LP covers.

You know what they mean, but the phrase “DAVID BOWIE LIVE” seems rather … jarring. What got Bowie onto these stamps now rather than any sooner, was that instead of being live, he is now dead (LINK TO THE OLD BLOG). Only dead people, or royals, can be on stamps, right?

Not quite. If you were an England cricketer playing in the 2005 Ashes that England won, you might also have become an honorary royal:

Scroll down here, for that picture, together with some rather sneering and very Australian references to Britain’s alleged lack of sporting prowess, which (says the Australian sneerer) explains why so many went crazy (LINK TO THE OLD BLOG) when those Ashes were won. And why the Post Office also went crazy and broke its own rule of us only being allowed, on stamps, to see dead people.